Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Originally posted on on June 20, 1999 Reprinted with permission from HARDGAINER magazine issue #60, May-June 1999

The key to building natural strength is dedicated effort, and not just in the gym. Although there are surely vast differences in individual genetics, I know of no one who has not made tremendous gains over the long haul if they truly paid their dues. Many people "micro-manage" their training and worry overly about minor things, but somehow overlook the main issue-consistent dedication. Many assume that they are dedicated when, in fact, they are not. Some assume that they are dedicated just because they avidly read about strength training. But if you were to ask them what they ate yesterday, or how much sleep they got, or how they are actually progressing in their training, you’ll frequently receive only excuses.

Dedication in natural strength training is best defined by the old-time term "Physical Culture." You don’t hear this term too often anymore because it encompasses a way of life. It’s not an end result, a trophy or a bodypart measurement, but a total lifestyle commitment. It’s about how you live your life "in the dark" when no one is watching you. It’s dedication to a 24-hour day philosophy, not just what you do in the gym. Most of the old-timers had this Physical Culture philosophy. They cared about health as much as strength. Just look at the old magazine titles. Today, it seems to me that most strong men couldn’t care less about health. Steroid use is rampant, and you’ll find many strong men smoking cigarettes and using recreational drugs too. They are no more dedicated to health than the average citizen.

Vic Boff is a good friend of mine, and we sometimes burn up the phone lines for hours. He’s a wealth of knowledge and has endless stories about the old-timers. He personally knew many of them, and was very close with Sig Klein and George Jowett. No one hates steroids more than Vic Boff; and no one hates more than he does what has happened to the Iron Game as a result of steroids.

To build muscle naturally you have to do the hard exercises, be mentally tough, get enough sleep, eat the right foods and avoid the wrong foods, and sweat buckets for years and years. It takes dedication to do it the right way. You have to love it to be able to stick with it for decades; but the long-term rewards make it all worthwhile.

Building muscle on "tuna and baked potatoes" is a lot slower than building it on steroids. Undedicated phonies can build muscle fast on steroids, but they lose it fast and die young too. To me, a true champion lives a dedicated life of Physical Culture in the spirit of our founding fathers. Vic, for example, puts health first and has lived his life as a dedicated Physical Culture disciple. How many of today’s "Mr. Something" drug-using bodybuilding "stars" will be the picture of health, strong, full of energy, and sharp as a tack like Vic when they get into their eighties? Not many, if any.

Almost every month I hear of another former bodybuilding star, or athlete, who is either dying from steroid use, or who recently died prematurely. And yet these are the guys that many of the ignorant and misinformed masses have looked to for training advice. Thank God for hardgainer and the few other good training magazines that provide truthful information for drug-free trainees.

We have much more information today about health than our forefathers had, and we should be held to higher standards because of it. Some of the old-timers had bad habits, but overall they were dedicated to health based on the information they had available at the time. Most of the (few) unhealthy things they did were done unknowingly. Today there’s no excuse.

I give a two-hour Physical Culture orientation to all my regular clients (who are not just visitors), and this is done before any weights are lifted. I stress dedication, commitment and health, as well as strength. I’ve put the basic framework of the orientation into a tongue-in-cheek "Ten Commandments" format-the "Whelan Strength Training Commandments." All of my clients get a copy of this, and even though it’s in a humorous format, the rules are taken very seriously. I have, for example, expelled people from my facility who lied when they told me that they were non-smokers. I don’t want these types, and usually get rid of them over the phone. I have had many requests for the "WST Commandments," and so have included them in this article.

Whelan Strength Training Commandments

1. Thou shalt train for strength, whole-body fitness and health; and do cardiovascular exercise and flexibility training as well as strength training.

2. Thou shalt not smoke, take illegal drugs or abuse legal drugs.

3. Thou shalt not use steroids or assist anyone in obtaining them.

4. Thou shalt be mentally focussed and give 100% effort at every training session.

5. Thou shalt strive for progressive resistance, using good form, without excessive rest between sets, and use the fullest (but safe) range of motion possible.

6. Thou shalt primarily focus on the basic compound strength training movements-multi-joint, not isolation-and train the whole body with equal emphasis on pushing and pulling. The training foundation is overhead pushing/pulling, horizontal pushing/pulling, and leg, hip and back pushing/pulling.

7. Thou shalt not seek shortcuts, miracle formulas or gimmicks, but instead stick to basic and sound information concerning training and nutrition, such as HARDGAINER, BRAWN, BEYOND BRAWN and THE INSIDER'S TELL-ALL HANDBOOK ON WEIGHT-TRAINING TECHNIQUE.

8. Thou shalt perform hard progressive strength training, and not toning, shaping or bodysculpting.

9. Thou shalt not train "bodyparts" but train the whole body (hard) usually about twice every 7-10 days.

10. Thou shalt not rely on mega-hype muscle mags for training or nutritional advice.

Bodyparts training and natural training don’t mix. Most people who train "bodyparts" (not the whole body) confuse "training" with "going to the gym." They somehow believe that by going into a building called "the gym" they will get bigger and stronger. They rarely talk about intensity or how hard they worked, but instead talk about being in a building. They brag about how long they are "in the gym," and how often they "go to the gym." They believe that by training "bodyparts," and thus spending more time "in the gym," they will get better results. They are usually unsophisticated beginners who feel more advanced just because they train in a bodyparts format. They don’t realize that bodyparts training has been around for decades and is nothing new.

Guys who "go to the gym" usually spend more time talking (about sports and politics, for example), and socializing at the water fountain, than they do training. That’s why they are there for three hours! They take a ten-minute rest between sets, and usually bench press with several other people. Their bench press workout alone takes 45 minutes. These guys rarely even break a sweat!

It’s almost impossible to train bodyparts without overtraining from "muscle overlap." You can’t put the major multi-joint exercises into neat, separate categories. The bench press, for example, does not hit just the chest, but front delts and triceps. The machine pullover, termed the "upper-body squat" by Arthur Jones, works almost every muscle in the upper body. What category do you put it in? The truth is that if you train bodyparts 5-6 days per week, you’re either on drugs or are not working hard-you take long rests between sets, and your workout is filled with easy exercises such as triceps kickbacks, cable crossovers, lateral raises, flyes, leg extensions, etc.; and you don’t do squats, deadlifts, chins, rows, military presses, etc. If you train hard, and are natural, you can’t train bodyparts 5-6 days per week. If you train hard, whole body, you’ll be physically unable to train more than twice every 7-10 days. Anyone who does not believe this can come for a free workout. It would be my pleasure to "convince" him.

"Look of power"

Dr. Ken and others have written articles about "the look of power." You don’t get the look of power unless you do the heavy compound exercises-the ones which require lots of recovery time for natural guys. Dr. Ken described this well when he stated that people who do bodyparts training look like they are just a "collection of bodyparts" that don’t seem to fit together. When you have the look of power you’re thick and look strong from any angle. Even if you have a raincoat on you still look thick and strong.

The look of power means thickness in the back, traps, glutes, legs, neck and whole body, not just arms and chest. If people only know that you "lift weights" when you have a tank top on, you don’t have the look of power. The look of power can’t be hidden. It has nothing to do with cuts or definition, but size and thickness. If you have the look of power, then no matter what oversize baggy sweatshirt you have on, you’ll still look powerful.

It’s no accident that bodyparts training and drug use grew together and are from the same roots. Most people get innocently sucked into bodyparts training without realizing it. The truth is that "bodyparts routines" are usually "drug routines" (or "wimp routines") and are not effective for the average drug-free trainee.

I love to get "bodyparts types" to train with me, especially if they have a cocky attitude. If they say things like, "Are you sure that twice a week will be enough?" I go out of my way to change their thinking.

To do this, I’ll have them spend the first workout doing heavy high-rep leg work for twenty minutes-and they usually don’t last even that long. If they do, I keep them going with little rest between sets doing nothing but the hard stuff, to failure; and they finish with the sandbag carry (if they last that long). This is strictly an attitude-adjustment workout, and is only used for "special" people.

When people come in with a really good attitude, and listen, then I start them much slower and pick up the intensity over a period of time, to build up conditioning progressively.

The smart ass types usually last only about twenty minutes of an attitude-adjustment workout, and are then laying on the floor. They are usually amazed at how soaked in sweat they are, and how tired. I then love to ask them, "Do you think we hit your biceps and back enough? Why don’t you come back tomorrow?" They never do, and are usually too sore and tired to think about training for at least three or four days, the way it should be.

"Maximum" Bob Whelan runs Whelan Strength Training in Washington, DC.

**If you enjoyed this article and would like to read all of Bob's articles from HardGainer (1994-2004) you must get a copy of Super Natural Strength.

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